Maybe finishing that bottle of bourbon last night was a bad idea.
Slowly we ooze out of our cold tents at around thenish to find…nothing. Just the sound of the breeze blowing through the trees, and some ravens caw-ing. We take our time making a lavish breakfast, enjoying the scenery, excited to continue this already epic journey.
I’ve never felt so far from anything in my life. Despite the desolation, you can’t help but feel the power in a land that isn’t smothered by concrete, steel, and exhaust fumes. I could get used to this.
And we would. Soon we would feel that power. In about 10 feet.
This day would devolve into some kind of purgatory, where our mental capacity for disappointment, frustration, and repetition would be pushed past limits we thought were reserved for Nicholas Sparks books. We were just getting started.
Today was supposed to be just a tiny portion of the first day of our trip. Thanks to a massive snowstorm that just melted before we arrived, the entire mesa which we were crawling across was rendered into peanut butter.
And not that no-stir Skippy bullshit. We’re talkin’ about that ‘all natural, bend your spoon struggling to stir the oil back into something that you can spread on your Ezekiel bread out of one bloodshot eye‘ peanut butter.
Anderson Mesa stuck to everything, and it didn’t want to come off. It just kept accumulating until you couldn’t move. Mud, grass, rocks, sticks, leaves, pinecones, entire cacti, everything that was on the ground quickly became part of our bikes.
To say that we were traveling at a glacial pace would be an understatement.
We would have to pray that as our 1.6mph progress ground to a halt that there was a stick around strong enough to withstand the scraping, picking, and pounding that it took to get this shit off our bikes.
Any time we had the courage to lie to ourselves thinking that there was a section of gloop that we could actually ride through, we would only get another 30 feet before this cycle of torment would repeat.
and over again.
In the end, we would end up spending more time peeling layers of earth off our bikes than we would trudging through soil that grabbed you like octopus tentacles. Actually riding these two wheeled mud magnets became a distant memory we could already refer to as “the good ol days”.
Maybe if I walk in the grass on the side of the trail, I’ll be able to walk longer without having to pick and scrape off the mud from my tires.
The dry grass only made it worse, it formed the early stages of concrete that now also stuck to our shoes. The more we walked, the bigger our shoes grew until we couldn’t even pick them up from the weight. It brought a new definition to the term clownshoes. Ancient people literally made houses out of this shit.
By the way, there’s “mountain lion” tracks everywhere. Only after we got home did we realize that these tracks we saw throughout our journey were actually just from the ‘yotes. In the moment though, we were looking over our shoulders constantly for fear of getting pounced on by a giant cat far away from anything that could hear our screams.
Just another way this purgatory ruthlessly tested our mental stability.
This being day 2 of day 1 (for those of you keeping track), our supplies were dwindling, most important of which, was water. The mesa found yet another way to fuck with us. Now we would start to discover how to work a delicate balance of forward progress while using no water and minimal calories.
Thankfully (thank you Justin for this quite literally lifesaving pro-tip) we had offline sections of google maps saved on our pocket frootputers, so we could track down some amorphous blue shapes that might have water along the trail.
Please god have water.
At Prime “Lake” we would quickly learn another life lesson: How to fill up various containers with soupy, silty, disgusting pondscum that could (maybe) keep us alive, just long enough so we could spend our last moments scraping more shit off of our tires in the hot sun.
Distance traveled so far: 2.5 miles.
Refreshed, and thoroughly confused by the sighting of a woman with a chelsea haircut all alone in the middle of nowhere, silently walking barefoot through the mush around the lake, we slowly forge on.
9 lifetimes and a mile later we finally get rewarded with a view, only to be further tortured by showing us something we cant have. Gillions of gallons of presumably clean, cold water, far below a sheer death-drop cliff.
Thankfully the trail goes that direction, and from what I can see on the map it looks like we cross that road right by the giant lake we’re drooling over.
Unfortunately for us (seeing a theme here?) there were still miles of this shit to go, and we eventually start to run low on water again.
Its so damn hot. Eventually I just take off my helmet and put my boonie hat on, its not like I’m actually riding this stupid bike anyway.
2 miles and 4 hours later, water is once again almost nonexistent. Completely separated now, I start scanning every square inch of my vision for anything that would have water in it. I come across a puddle between two pine trees and pause. Once again I struggle to fill containers of brown liquid to drink. I stand back up to bring them back to the bike and I’m lightheaded from dehydration, soon to be a common theme of this crucible.
I wait in the shade propped up against a fallen tree for Dan to come rolling up, chugging the meager amounts of liquid I got out of the puddle. Goddamn its so cold and delicious. It looks like iced tea. Fuck what I would give for a lemon…and some rum…and a burrito…and an air conditioner…and a pool…and a firehose…
As were sitting in the shade wondering what we’ve done to deserve this, a hiker comes up traveling the opposite direction. Turns out the hikers name is Mike (of course) and hes from NYC (of course), and he comes bearing horrendous news (of course).
Yeah…all the way down to the road is this mud, its like…miles.
After saying goodbye to Mike, Dan fills his own bottles, we eat some (ever dwindling) snacks and rest, as I wander around and find some Elk bones. After spending our day breaking about 6894 sticks, the sight of a new, durable mud scraping tool becomes the best part of the entire journey thusfar. These simple bones could’ve very well been bars of gold wed just found on the side of the trail, and they sure as shit weighed as much, but goddamn they were efficient.
PINNNG, PING, PING PINNNNG, PINNNG, PINNG, PING, PING, PINNNG, PING, PING, PING, PINNG, PINNNNNG
After today, the basketball sound the bones made as we pounded on our wheels will be burned into our memories as the sound of hell. When you start to get used to such a damaged existence, its things like this that really start to wear at the (already) thin shreds holding you together.
As the shadows get longer, our will gets crushed into even finer grains of dust until it just shatters our existence. We’ve gone as far as patience allows.
We’re hungry, tired, and pissed. We’re going to sleep, but not before we eat the last of our food, a concoction of oatmeal, pemmican bars, and protein powder drowned in extra virgin olive oil and salt.
If we don’t get out of this hell tomorrow we’ll surely die.
Total distance traveled: 6.6 miles.
Elapsed time: 6 hours 19 minutes.
Average moving speed: 3.7mph.